Brexiteers Discuss Theresa May Leadership Challenge

Brexiteers Discuss Theresa May Leadership ChallengeBrexiteers Discuss Theresa May Leadership Challenge

Conservative parliament members opposed to Theresa May’s Brexit plan have met to discuss how and when they could force her to stand down as prime minister.

About 50 members of the European Research Group (ERG) openly discussed “how best you game the leadership election rules,” a source said.

Environment Secretary Michael Gove said leadership speculation was “loose talk” and urged MPs to unite behind the premier, BBC reported.

Gove said he wanted May to stay in Downing Street “as long as possible” and believed her much-criticized Chequers blueprint for future relations with the EU could win the support of parliament.

Leadership speculation was “like the weather...feature of British life,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today.

“This is loose talk. There is always loose talk. The critical thing is we deliver on the Brexit mandate and any diversion or distraction from that commitment means our ability to ensure that it delivered is undermined.”

 Leading Tory Brexiteers’ Absence 

The BBC’s assistant political editor Norman Smith said the significance of the ideas discussed at the ERG meeting would have to be considered as leading Tory Brexiteers—Jacob Rees-Mogg, Owen Paterson, Iain Duncan Smith, Bernard Jenkin, David Davis, Boris Johnson—were not present.

May says she wants to strike a trade deal with the EU for after the UK leaves in 2019. She also says there needs to be “friction-free movement of goods” with no customs or regulatory checks between the UK and EU on the island of Ireland, in order to avoid a hard border there.

The ERG strongly opposes these proposals, which form part of what has become known as the Chequers plan. One MP present at the meeting on Tuesday evening said the group considered “possible scenarios over the autumn” depending on the deal the prime minister did or did not get with the EU, BBC political correspondent Jonathan Blake said.

Comments at Tuesday evening’s meeting were said to include “everyone I know says she has to go,” “she’s a disaster” and “this can’t go on.”

One source said “people feel the leadership is out of touch and has lost the plot,” but another said changing the leader “is a stupid idea now.”

 Leadership Contest

A number told the meeting in Westminster that they had already submitted letters of no confidence in May. However, it is understood they are not planning an immediate move against her.

A Conservative leadership contest can be triggered either if the leader resigns or if 15% of Tory MPs (currently 48) write to the chairman of the backbench 1922 Committee, demanding a vote of no confidence.

There is massive frustration with her leadership, her position on Chequers and the way her proposals tuck the UK closely into the EU in perpetuity. And yes, there are some MPs who want to see her gone immediately.

However senior voices in the European Research Group are adamant that it is not the time to try to oust the premier. It would be “stupid”, one told the BBC correspondent Tuesday night.

Imagine in these critical weeks of the Brexit negotiations if the UK started to try to change the prime minister.

Right now those jostling to remove her know they do not have any guarantees they would have the numbers to force her out, even though they may well be able to pull together enough MPs to submit letters to the chair of 1922 committee to trigger a contest.

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